British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful condemns Rwanda scheme: ‘This country was built on refugees’

Edward Enninful has condemned the UK government’s plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda, with the British Vogue editor-in-chief instead calling for a “more helpful and inclusive policy”.

Enninful spoke candidly about the flaws he sees in the government plan during a conversation with Sky News’ Sarah-Jane Mee, which aired on Thursday.

While discussing the policy, which would see the UK government send asylum-seekers to Rwanda where they may be granted refugee status or be forced to seek asylum elsewhere, the Vogue editor referenced his own background as a “refugee”.

“This country was built on refugees, people from India, people from Africa, from the Commonwealth, and sort of embraced all these countries,” Enninful said. “So I feel like sending people to Rwanda is not really the solution. I’m a refugee, and I think refugees contribute to the country so we have to have empathy. I think sometimes it’s quite hard for people to show [empathy], but I think that’s the only way forward when it comes to refugees.”

Enninful himself immigrated to Britain after fleeing Ghana with his family in the 1980s. The journalist discussed his working-class childhood growing up in Ghana, and how his mother, a dressmaker, influenced his first teachings in the fashion world in his memoir A Visible Man.

The memoir, released last month, sees Enninful reflecting on his experience arriving in London in 1985, which he described as landing “into another kind of war zone” as a result of  “Thatcher’s cruel and repressive policies”.

In place of the government’s current plan, Enninful says he would like to see a “more helpful and inclusive policy in place”.

“Because when you tell people that they’re not needed, when you tell people that they’re not wanted, that’s a problem in itself,” Enninful told Mee. “You might be saying no to the next doctor who is going to discover the next vaccine, or the next prime minister. You could be turning incredible people away, so we have to be very careful.”

Despite the criticism and ongoing legal challenges over the government plan, which was first signed in April, Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman recently said the government plans to continue with the policy, and potentially expand it.

“We’re looking actively at negotiating with countries who will take our asylum seekers,” she said Tuesday.

Elsewhere during the interview, Enninful was asked about the possibility of UK Prime Minister Liz Truss being featured in British Vogue.

He explained that the magazine features people who “are sort of doing things at the moment, who have something to do with the zeitgeist”.

“So, you know, we’re waiting to see how she progresses,” he said. “And then we will have that conversation again.”

Enninful was also asked by Sky News about whether he felt there was a “racist undertone” to the tabloid coverage of the 2019 special issue of British Vogue guest-edited by Meghan Markle, and whether it resonated with his own experience taking over as the editor of Vogue in 2017.

“I think to just say it’s racism really simplifies everything. When I took the job, I was an outsider, and I think she was seen as an outsider. I was Black, I was gay, I was working class, I was a refugee. So I was an outsider coming to take up this institutional role,” he said.

What people didn’t realise was that he was the ultimate “insider,” Enninful said, referencing his extensive background in fashion journalism.

“I just buckled down and did the work, and I think that’s what she’s doing,” he added.


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